Let the Wild Rumpus Start! And Other Parenting Tips From Kids’ Books

“The days are long, but the years are short” is possibly the most honest phrase ever said about parenting. Becoming a parent is one of the best, hardest, most wonderful, and most trying jobs there is. To help get through the long days, the short years, and the temper tantrums in between, during your next story time, take a look at the messages behind your picture books; you might be surprised at just how helpful (and prescient) they are.

“’And now,’ cried Max, ‘let the wild rumpus start!’” (Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak)

 This could be said about every single day of parenting, from those first kicks to the bladder during pregnancy, to the crayon on the walls of toddlerhood, to the tearful high school graduation. Every day is crazier than you’d planned, more fun, and more frustrating, all at the same time. Parenting is indeed a wild rumpus — and if we take it as such, then at least we’ll be more prepared for the absurdity.

“It has been a TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY. My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia.” (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz)

 There will be days when no one makes it out of their pajamas, the dog spills your last precious cup of coffee, and your toddler takes magic markers to the TV screen. It happens, despite our best efforts and our most carefully laid plans. No matter how the day unfolds, it’s comforting to know that it’s normal, and everyone has been there. File it away, have a glass of wine or a cookie, and remember it’ll be okay tomorrow.

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” (The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh, by A.A. Milne and Ernest H. Shepard)

 When you get down to it, we’re responsible for teaching our children how to be good, kind, responsible human beings; that is a powerful mission, and we should take the time to recognize that, and to acknowledge and appreciate our own efforts, even though we often feel like we aren’t doing enough. Maybe your kids haven’t mastered shoelaces yet, but however far along you are in this endeavor, you are a superhero.

“I should count backwards from 5 to calm down.” (The Pizza Problem, by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson)

 When things do get too crazy, take some advice from Peg and count backward, slowly. A lot can be gained from not immediately reacting to a situation, instead stepping away and taking a breather. When you jump back in, you may be surprised at how much your perspective has changed. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint, so sometimes you need to catch your breath before pushing on.

“The truth is grown-ups often need some extra help. Baffled and befuddled, mindless and muddled, they sometimes forget what they know.” (Julia, Child, by Kyo Maclearand, Julie Morstad)

 With a focus on staying young, enjoying some freedom, and being yourself, this whole book is a gorgeous reminder to live in the moment. And, as a bonus, there are also fabulous pictures of food throughout. If we stand back and watch, we can learn a lot about how to live our best lives from our children. Also, it’s really about time the iconic Julia Child got a picture book of this quality. After all, what’s happier and more heartening to families than food?

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” (The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien)

 Speaking of food and happiness, take a page from The Hobbit. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of getting by we can forget to enjoy what we have. Instead of taking every overtime shift and letting that vacation time expire, take a day or two off to enjoy your kids, your home, and your surroundings. There’s more wealth in family and friends than we sometimes realize. Your sanity, and your children, will thank you for listening to Tolkien on this one.

“When they’ve finished reading, Olivia’s mother gives her a kiss and says, ‘You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.’” (Olivia, by Ian Falconer)

 No matter how tired, filthy, or frustrated parenting can make you feel, try to remember just how much you do love that little person. Everything may feel like chaos, and your house may actually look like the definition of chaos, but if your family is more or less happy, healthy, and safe, pat yourself on the back and move on to tomorrow.

“Go the f**k to sleep.” (Go the F**k to Sleep, by Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes)

 Sometimes the best lesson is the briefest. Everyone, get some sleep when you can. It can make all the difference.

Originally published at www.barnesandnoble.com on March 18, 2016.

7 Children’s Book Characters Who Would Make Terrible Coworkers

The working world isn’t that different from the worlds within children’s books. There are plenty of nice people; those you can relate to and enjoy spending time with. Then there are those guys. Every office (and story) has a few of them — from the one who eats all the candy-dish candy, to the one who rolls in late and leaves early, to the well-meaning elder statesman who can fill an entire day with his stories. You may have a soft spot for some of them, but when you’re facing a tough work deadline you won’t want to have to rely on any of these shady characters.

Spot (Put Me in the Zoo, by Robert Lopshire)

 Spot is the ultimate anywhere-but-here guy. He thinks he deserves the promotion, the better office, that last donut. You just know he’s at his desk checking out Monster Jobs when he should be working on that project your team has due before lunch. Sure, maybe he’s right, maybe he is special, maybe he does deserve something more, but maybe he should try putting in a day’s honest work now and then (and stop taking your parking spot). You can’t help but like Spot, but you also like not being the one stuck putting together his PowerPoint slides when you should have gone home an hour ago. (Ages 5–8)

Curious George (A Treasury of Curious George, by H. A. Rey and Margret Rey)

 Sure, George is a nice guy, and he really does try to get the job done for the team, but dude also likes to go rogue. There is an employee handbook for a reason, but it’s as if George has never taken the time to read it (sometimes you wonder if he can read at all)! Still, he always gets results, and the bosses seem to like his unique thought process and gung-ho attitude. But for the rest of the office, who spends their days filling out his TPS Reports and showing up on time, George isn’t the spunky guy with the out of the box ideas, he’s the guy eats all the snacks in the break room and strolls in late with all the answers. (Ages 0–3)

Max (Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak)

 If Max doesn’t get his way, he stops contributing during your weekly brainstorming sessions. His temper tantrums at the water cooler and his reluctance to ever go out to lunch with the group have made him the office loner. When Max does take the lead on a project, he has no problem ruling with an iron fist; the phrase “benevolent dictator” was made for someone just like Max. Things may run smoothly when he’s is at the helm, and one day he will probably make a great CEO, but when things go off the rails he is the first to bow out and sail off into the sunset. Secretly you hope Max gets promoted to another department, where you won’t have to deal with his attitude or listen to him brag about how he’s helping a buddy redo his Night Kitchen. (Ages 3–5)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle)

 Is this guy never not on a lunch break!? If he’s not in the break room pilfering someone’s sandwich, snacking on the granola bars from the community basket, or swinging by your desk to eat all of your good candy, he is asking where everyone wants to eat. Every morning the Caterpillar shows up with his breakfast, which he eats loudly at his desk, and he keeps a bag of chips in his bottom drawer to snack on all afternoon. Behind the apple cores and strawberry tops he does somehow get something done, but people mostly like him because he is the first one to yell out that it is Taco Tuesday. The only way you can get him to come to a meeting is if you promise pizza, and then he always scarfs down way more than his fair share, and everyone notices. (Ages 3–5)

Owl (The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, by A. A. Milne and Ernest H. Shepard)

 Owl is experienced; he’s the oldest guy in any room. He seems to have connections all over the industry, and he has met his fair share of famous faces. When management brought in the new boss, Owl revealedd that he used to ski with “that young woman’s father.” You try to be nice to Owl, and often times you are impressed — maybe even jealous — of his stories. But when he tells you about his well-regarded Great Uncle So-and-So for the hundredth time, you just want to hide behind the copier. Still, Owl is a fine fellow much of the time, so you will be the first one who offers to pick up the cake for his retirement party. (Ages 8–12)

Flash the sloth (Zootopia Read-Along Storybook & CD), by Disney Book Group and Disney Storybook Art Team)

 Flash Flash Hundred Yard Dash may be great for a laugh (What do you call a three humped camel?), but the only thing he does quickly is bolt for the door at the end of the day. No email is every responded to in a timely manner, and schedules and deadlines seem more like suggestions than mandates. Flash knows he isn’t quick, so he takes his criticism in stride, but he also does nothing to pick up the pace. Sometimes his leisureliness seems admirable, and it might make him the most thorough guy on any project, but when time is of the essence, you don’t want him on your team. (Ages 6–8)

Minecraft Zombie (Diary of a Minecraft Zombie Book 1: A Scare of a Dare, by Herobrine Books)

 This guy is just begging to be let go, and everyone in the office knows it. Every Monday he drags his feet in the door, wearing what looks to be Friday’s clothes. He takes the phrase “business casual” to the most extreme level, and has never bothered to personalize his space. His Facebook page is jam packed with photos from all of his nightly party antics, so it isn’t surprising that he has been caught sleeping next to the fax machine. You’re not even sure what his name is, since he never comes to staff meetings, has never been assigned a project, and has no interest in group trivia nights at the local pizza place. All and all he isn’t a bad guy, since he has no responsibilities, but it is a shame he get the same paycheck as everyone else. (Ages 6–12)

What literary characters do you think would make horrible coworkers?

Originally published at www.barnesandnoble.com on March 17, 2016.

6 Books to Read While in the Hundred Acre Woods

The Big Honey HuntBlustery days, changing leaves, and hats and scarves all equal Winnie the Pooh weather in our house. Now is the best time of year for curling up with a good book and a cup of tea, preferably on a blanket under a tree. In just the same way we like to enjoy a book and a few minutes of quiet, so too do Christopher Robin’s friends, Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Rabbit, Owl, and Kanga and Roo. This fall take the opportunity to read some of the books that are surely on the shelves of our favorite Hundred Acre Woods pals.

Winnie the Pooh
The Big Honey Hunt, by Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain
If Winnie the Pooh isn’t eating honey, thinking about honey, or plotting to find some honey, then he is most likely reading about honey. As Papa Bear and Little Bear set out to find honey, they deviate from Momma’s plan for them to go to the grocery store. The two brave the woods and mischief follows. The Berenstain Bears are truly a bear family after Pooh’s own stout heart.

Rabbit
The Secret Garden: Deluxe Hardcover Classic, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Rabbit enjoys the comfort and calm of his garden. An afternoon of fresh air and hard work, along with a hefty pile of fresh produce pleases Rabbit like nothing else. Like Mary, in her own special walled-in garden, Rabbit becomes his best self when surrounded by well cared-for plants. Within his picket fence Rabbit can make his own happiness, and maybe share some of those extra fruits and veggies with his friends.

Piglet
Coraline (Graphic Novel), by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell
After sweeping clean his yard near the “Trespassers Will” sign, it is easy to picture Piglet getting some catharsis from his fears with Neil Gaiman’s classic Coraline, reimagined as a graphic novel. A blanket and some firelight, and maybe an evening visit from Pooh while the two imagine what Christopher Robin is doing, is just about the ideal Piglet night. Coraline lets Piglet imagine a more “perfect” world while also learning to appreciate what he has right there.

Tigger
Anna Banana: 101 Jump-Rope Rhymes, by Joanna Cole and Alan Tiegreen
When plain old jumping just doesn’t cut it anymore, Tigger can flip through this book of rhymes to recharge his battery. Another bonus? Instead of jumping alone, Tigger can invite his other Hundred Acre Woods friends to jump and rhyme too. Even Rabbit and Eeyore, who aren’t known for their jumping, will love to chant “Teddy Bear Teddy Bear” while bouncing around the woods.

Owl
A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson
While Owl probably has tons of other books that cover so many subjects, this would most likely be on his bedside table. Owl loves facts, stories, and figures so Bill Bryson’s Really Short History scratches his information itch. Unlike when Owl reads his family histories, I am sure that his friends would enjoy sitting with him as he read aloud about the dinosaurs, the oceans, and the expansion of the universe.

Kanga and Roo
Mama Says: A Book of Love for Mothers and Sons, by Rob D. Walker, Leo Dillon, and Diane Dillon
Kanga, who is always so warm, would love sharing this gorgeous book about kindness, faith, courage, and trying your best with Roo. The art is so bright and unique that Roo’s imagination won’t be able to stay still, but he will remember with every reading the importance of his family and friends. When Roo runs off to play with Tigger and the others, while Kanga finally enjoys some peace and quiet, both will have this story on their minds.

What books do you think the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood might enjoy?

From Barnes and Noble